Record Aconcagua Speed ascent by Willie Benegas/North
Face Athlete Team Member
is a mountain in Argentina with a summit that
reaches 22,831 feet. To get a fresh
start to the new year Willie Benegas, a North
Face Athlete Team member, decided to set a
world record speed ascent/descent beginning
from the trail head at 8,192 feet. The
total round trip is 54 miles. The following is
a brief account of the event:
left the trail head at 10:30 pm with a pair of
Ultra 100 trail running shoes, Notus Jacket, 2.5 gallons of Gatorade, a Walkman CD Player,
and 22 Cliff Shots. It was a moonless night
and Willie charged to base camp (13,600) 22
miles away with Vivaldi, his only CD,
"rocking all night." Along the
way he took a short break to take 10 Cliff
shots. Once he reached base camp he changed
into the new Red Point Jacket and Aurora
Base Camp the summit is only 5 miles away but
ascends a monumental 9,231 feet. Still
in his Ultra 100's, Willie reaches the peak at
taking 16 hours, 10 minutes to summit, Willie
turned around and began to turn up the speed.
He had passed several groups along the way and
news of his attempt had spread through Base
Camp and along the rest of the trail. As he
returned to Base Camp, 200 people were
cheering him on. He fueled up with the
remainder of the Cliff Shots and reached the
trail head at 9:30 pm, 6 hours, 50 minutes
from the Summit. After this achievement one
might wonder what Willie would do to recover.
To that he says, "in the next couple of
days I'll be climbing and eating many
Argentinian Steaks." Regarding his
accomplishment he adds "no
Previous Updates on Willie Below"
The Climber: Willie Benegas
raised in the wild heart of Patagonia, Willie Benegas, along with his twin
brother Damien, have pursued a long apprenticeship in the mountains.
As one of the "young bucks" of the world-class North Face team, Willie has
pushed his craft on the big-walls of Yosemite, the airy summits of South
America, and the loftiest peaks of the Himalaya.
The boundless duo, now hailing from Berkeley California, completed their
first major new ascent with a route up Patagonia's West Face of Pilquitron
(VI, 5.9, A3) which is still unrepeated. At 20, they climbed
Fitz Roy's impressive Supercouloir as well as routes on Guillaumet and
Poincenot. In the following years, Willie has ticked off the South
Face of Aconcagua, a new route on the North Face of Pakistan's Nameless
Tower (VII), record speed ascents in Yosemite valley, and attempted major
new routes on the legendary North Faces of Thalay Sagar and Jannu.
simply overcoming technical routes or highest summits
is not enough for this 30 year old climber.
He gathers equal satisfaction by introducing others to
the wide-world of mountain experience. To help
fulfill this goal, Willie and Damien established
Patagonian Brothers Expeditions specializing in South
American guided climbs and treks. They also lead
expeditions for Out There Trekking (UK, OTT) in
Africa, South America, and on Himalayan
giants such as Cho Oyu.
Willie has many plans for the future, but he often
gets the same question; why do you climb? When
asked about the draw of high places, he says "a
mountain adventure will carry over into many
facets of your life, teaching about yourself, your
co-existence with nature, and respect for other
people's cultures." Willie will be returning to
this well-spring of adventure and as a guide on OTT's
Everest expedition this spring in Nepal.
The Boy: Casey Read
|In October of
1998, a one-year-old child named Casey Read was hospitalized in California
with a rare, and potentially deadly, parasitic disease carried by raccoons -
Baylisascaris procyonis ("B procyonis"). Little Casey apparently contracted
the rare disease by accidentally ingesting an M&M size amount of raccoon
feces while playing outside. Six months later, Casey and his family continue
to fight for his survival.
B procynosis passes to people who accidentally ingest infected eggs either orally, through
their nose, or by inhaling. The eggs are often contained in racoon feces hidden in
contaminated soil or water. These microscopic eggs are not visible to the human eye and
can remain viable for months or years (depending on where they are located). They are
protected by a hard outer shell, thus making them difficult to destroy.
Though extremely rare in humans, the disease can cause significant destruction of the
human body. After being ingested, the eggs hatch in the intestine before penetrating its
walls and migrating swiftly to the liver. The larvae then move quickly to the hosts'
lungs, and typically into the circulatory system (in this case, Casey). Pulmonary
hemorrhages are often seen within days of ingestion of the eggs.
As these larvae are larger and more aggressive than the common roundworm larvae found in
cats and dogs, their mere migration through the body can cause significant damage as they
literally tear through the body's tissue, often injuring the brain and eyes. Though most
larvae enter the circulatory system, approximately 5 to 7% of the larvae enter the brain
and cause CNS disease, which is the most serious disease caused by the larvae.
Symptoms of larval infection include drowsiness, confusion, and loss of muscle
coordination or decreased head control. The severity of the reaction depends upon the
number of larvae ingested. This infection can result in permanent vision or nervous system
disabilities. An infection resulting from the ingestion of as little as 46,000 microscopic
eggs could result in death. Fortunately, to date, there are few reported fatalities from
The prevalence of B procyonis in humans is currently unknown. However, the small number of
studies conducted in the United States have shown a varying degree of infection among
raccoons ranging as high as 94% of all raccoons in certain areas. Unfortunately, as public
awareness of the disease is extremely low, B procyonis remains a serious threat to
children who play outside.
After being brought to the community hospital by his parents for what they thought was a
mild allergy, Casey's family was devastated to learn that this was no allergy Casey
was infected with a potentially deadly parasite. Casey was promptly rushed to a larger
medical center where he was administered extremely strong antiparasitic drugs and
megadoses of anabolic steroids over a four week period to kill the parasite, reduce
swelling in his brain, and hopefully save Casey's life. Though these drugs could have
actually killed Casey, they were the only option.
Despite the doctors' valiant efforts, Casey's infection caused encephalitis (swelling of
the brain), which resulted in total body muscle spasms, blindness and brain damage.
Casey's parents and older sister could only wait and pray at Casey's side as he suffered
through this painful and traumatic ordeal that has lasted several months. During this
time, Casey's family learned the unsettling news that of the five children who had been
inflicted with this horrible disease, four died and one remains extremely disabled.
Today, the Read family has no idea what the future holds for Casey. However, they do know
that Casey's vision is severely impaired, and he remains on sedatives and muscle
relaxants. Though muscle control is minimal, Casey can drink from his bottle, eat soft
foods, suck his thumb and roll over. And fortunately, his hearing is intact. Casey and his
family remain optimistic.
Awareness - Racoon Alert
For others, there are ways to minimize chances of infection, and the Read family and
friends have been working hard to get the word out. Small children should stay away from
areas where raccoons defecate often in raised areas with fallen timber, where
firewood is stored, near patios and decks, in attics, in garages and other areas adjacent
to yards and gardens. Children should also be warned about the dangers of putting dirty
hands or objects in their mouths and should always thoroughly wash their hands after
playing. Sandboxes and other play areas should be covered when not in use. All direct
contact with raccoons should be avoided.
If raccoons live in or frequent your yard, consider wearing gloves whenever working with
the soil or firewood. Never feed raccoons (no matter how hungry or cute they look), as
this will cause them to continuously return to your yard, thus increasing the likelihood
of infection. Indeed, in many areas, it is a crime to feed the wildlife. Keep your garbage
cans tightly sealed. Finally, discourage raccoons from living in your chimney,
outbuildings, attics or under your deck. Please make all efforts to follow these
guidelines to avoid the pain and suffering Casey and his family have had to endure.
Hope for the Future
Casey's plight should not be considered a tragedy. Rather, it is a misfortune that has
brought the Read family and friends closer together. We should all place our lives in
perspective and cherish what we have and whom we love. Please consider making a small
donation to "Caring for Casey" to minimize Casey's daily suffering and assist
the Read family's continuous fight against the rare disease that is trying to seize little
Casey's spirit and life from them and all of us. Donations are greatly appreciated and can
be mailed to:
Account # 4101251
Everest News in the memo part of your check.
These Parasites have conclusively been found in infants in Florida, Michigan, Seattle, and
California. Willie, Casey's family, and Everest News, believe the word needs to get out
about this disease. If we can prevent even one more case...one family from having their
Willie's Missions in Spring 1999:
Willie has dedicated his Everest climb to his father who has cancer and to little Casey.
Tax deductible donations can be send to the
P.O. Box 310
Everest News in the memo part of your check.
carrying a picture of little Casey to the Summit of Everest, to help raise money for
this little boy and his family.
Everest News asks
You to consider these causes in Your giving
for the 1999 year.
Thank You The Staff at
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Spring 1999 Willie reaches the Summit of Everest !
Update Spring 2002:
Willie reaches the Summit of Everest again! Alpine
8000 Everest 2002 Expedition